A few weeks back, pop star Taylor Swift pulled her songs off of Spotify on the grounds that free streaming services don’t compensate artists sufficiently for the value of their social contribution. You know who Taylor Swift is, right? If not, here’s a picture of her to help you out (and get more people to click on links to this piece–for some reason, people really like photos of young female celebrities):
Swift’s argument makes some sense–art certainly adds value to our lives and contributes to our society, and we can’t have art if we’re not willing to pay our artists. The trouble is that these days it’s very easy for people to avoid paying for art over the internet, and there’s no practical means by which laws would be enforced to ensure payment. Going forward, this is going to get exponentially worse, until the entertainment industry is left with a fraction of what it brings in today. Additionally, the age of streaming and downloading introduced a new principle that appeals to many young people–that all citizens, regardless of income, should be able to enjoy art equally in a free society. These two principles conflict. How can artists get paid for their art if their art belongs to society and individual consumers have the means to access the content for free with impunity? I’ve found a way to do it. I call it “Fun.gov”. If you’re a small government type, it’s going to rub you the wrong way at first, but hear me out. This could work.